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July 27, 2007

Under The Knife

Race Weekend

by Will Carroll

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Starting today, trade weekend intersects with race weekend, and with that on top of the opening of Colts training camp, things are getting a bit hectic. (Quick predictions: Jeff Gordon wins, Colts win again.) That doesn't stop injuries from occurring, and it always seems at this time of year, when teams are doing the most navel-gazing, there's one or two injuries that completely change a team's view of itself when it's about to make a move. The biggest change I've seen is that teams actually seem to be thinking about injuries and health risk. Sometimes it's just to acknowledge the near-inevitability of some players and injuries, but that's often why a particular player is on the trading block to begin with. We're lucky enough to have several very tight division races, ones that will be decided by a win or two. In today's baseball, that's something small-a role player, a hot streak, or an injury. There's only one of those that you can control.

Powered by Peet's Panama Esmeralda Reserve coffee, on to the injuries...

  • It's a tough break for the Phillies, but it's not a bad break for Chase Utley. Fractures are about the most straightforward injury in baseball. Bones break, they heal, and life goes on. There are the occasional cases where there are complications or the odd fracture along the lines of Jermaine Dye and his spiral tibia fracture, but mostly it's as simple as waiting for it to heal. Given the bone stimulators and medications that can speed the healing process up, the bone will 'cement' together more quickly than we could have just five years ago. I can remember the rumored use of Fosamax by Mark Mulder being a near controversy at the time Peter Gammons reported it; today, it's not an even shorter wait. Utley will likely miss around a month, give or take a week, depending on his natural healing and how he responds. As with any hand injury, there will be some bat control issues, and likely some short-term loss of power. It's another reminder that something relatively easy like a padded glove could spare people from these problems.
  • While we wait for results of Derek Lowe's MRI, the Dodgers have two other pitchers with hurts to worry about. Brad Penny left last night's game with what's being described as an abdominal strain after chugging down the line on an infield single. While Dodgers fans had to wonder why they're so cursed as to have four of their starting five injured, the fact is that this was nothing more than a simple cramp. Penny was removed as a precaution, got the win, and should make his next start. There's a slight risk that this was a mild strain rather than just a cramp and that he could exacerbate the injury next time out, but again, it's only a slight risk that won't last much beyond his next start. From among the actually disabled pitchers, Randy Wolf had a rehab start, but he wasn't happy with the results. Neither were the Dodgers, who think he'll need at least two more rehab starts before they can think about bringing him back. That the Dodgers have held their division lead despite these injuries is pretty amazing.
  • Pedro Martinez has one more hurdle before getting back into a game. He'll throw a simulated game Friday afternoon at the Mets' Florida complex, and if that goes as well as his last outing, he'll start for High-A Port St. Lucie next week. The Mets have a tentative schedule mapped out that takes three starts, one at each level, with room for a fourth if needed. The biggest question about Pedro is stamina, but with the conservative tack the Mets have taken so far, I'd be surprised if Martinez wasn't held to a very low pitch limit in his first outing, increasing by 15 or so in each subsequent outing. The question then would be how high Martinez could be allowed to go without taxing his recovery, and just how well he recovers from each outing. I believe that the Mets are going to have to get very creative to get the most value out of Martinez this season, but that they are a team that can do that.
  • Martinez's former teammate Curt Schilling dominated in Triple-A, going five scoreless innings, striking out eight, and according to one observer he made "a bunch of those guys look stupid." Schilling showed no problems, but the depth and lead that the Red Sox have allows them to be conservative. Still, I'm a bit surprised that Schilling will be making one more rehab start next Tuesday. Schilling showed no problem with control or velocity, nor did it look like stamina was an issue; it's the latter that I think Schilling will be focused on. Assuming no setbacks, Schilling should be back in the Red Sox rotation during the first week of August.
  • It was one of the uglier beanings in recent memory. Pedro Lopez took a riding fastball directly in the face, breaking his cheekbone. Matt Wise, the pitcher, was visibly troubled by the pitch, which was clearly unintentional. That doesn't make it less painful or damaging though, forcing the Reds to make an unusual move. They activated Juan Castro from the DL, despite his decision to have Tommy John surgery. That's right-the Reds activated an infielder who can't throw, due to their having to deal with both the Lopez injury and the unfortunate circumstance of having starter Alex Gonzalez away from the team to deal with his child's illness. Lopez suffered no vision problems, which is the biggest concern.
  • The Rays pulled B.J. Upton as a precaution after he started cramping up. Initial reports had it as a recurrence of his quad strain, but Ron Porterfield and his staff were watching closely. Yes, it's worrisome that Upton is having problems like this, raising question about whether he's wearing down on top of sustaining the injuries, but they were both lucky and smart in catching this one before it got more serious. The recurrence risk on the quad is still squarely in the danger zone, so expect the Rays to be very cautious, looking for ways to get him rest. It's important to note that despite playing Upton in center field to guard against the quick movements that the team thought would most tax his quad, he's still having broad muscular problems. While I'm talking about the Rays, mark August 22nd on your calendar--that looks like the date for our next ballpark event at the Trop.
  • I hesitate to report this one, because it could be misinterpreted both ways. I'll play it straight up--Akinori Otsuka is not, according to two sources, a candidate for Tommy John surgery. Otsuka's problem is in his forearm, not the "structural elbow," and there is no structural damage in either location. Otsuka has an inflammation caused by an unknown irritation which has been slow to respond to treatment and medication. Simply put, he's healing slowly from a relatively minor but debilitating injury. That said, there's still no solid timetable for his return, or a solid diagnosis of what exactly is taking so long. The Rangers hope a visit to Dr. Lewis Yocum will clear things up.
  • Speaking of Tommy John surgery, there are almost as many rumors regarding Josh Johnson as there are about Otsuka. Johnson is just back from ulnar neuritis, and is headed to visit Dr. James Andrews in Alabama. The Marlins shut down Johnson until that visit, and are talking about Johnson as if they've resigned themselves to his loss. With Anibal Sanchez already done for the season after surgery and Dontrelle Willis struggling, one source was openly cursing Joe Girardi. "It has to go back to the rain delay," he said, referencing last year's game where Johnson was put back in the game after an 80-minute rain delay. "Girardi broke two arms, maybe more, and set this franchise back five years." It's a bit much for me to place all the blame on Girardi, but the point made does hold some water. Young pitchers simply can't be treated like a fungible, easily replaceable resource, and it's not just Girardi that has done so.
  • It's hard to hold a broken hand against Bobby Crosby. Yes, he's injury-prone, but after playing 96 games thus far, he's managed to avoid the things he could avoid. It was just an inside pitch--much like the one that got Utley--that did him in. I hate saying that it's bad luck, but really, that's all it is, a wrong place and wrong time thing that no one could have prevented, short of wearing something like, oh, you know, a padded glove. Worse, Crosby didn't have just one fracture or even one bone that fractured--he has multiple fractures across his third and fourth metacarpals, the bones of the hand below the middle and ring finger. In essence, that pitch caved in two bones. That will take longer to heal, and given Crosby's history of slow healing, his season's in some jeopardy. Hey, Billy Beane likes soccer now--how about something like this for the A's next year?
  • Carlos Quentin announced that he'll have surgery after the season--or more likely, once the D'backs are eliminated from the playoff race--to repair his shoulder. The labrum tear he suffered early in the season is an easy explanation for his underperformance this season, but he's been able to hit during his time at Triple-A. There will be no excuses next season, as the surgery should clear things up without any lingering problem. This is something that should have Marlins fans watching as well, because Hanley Ramirez might be headed down a similar path with his chronically lax shoulder.
  • Quick Cuts: Jim Hendry is in Arizona to get a firsthand look at Kerry Wood. One scout who saw Wood on Thursday called him "a difference maker, even as a setup guy." ... Roy Oswalt will return from the DL on Saturday. ... As I was digging through today's game notes, I noticed that the Royals have a minor leaguer named "Rowdy Hardy." He should make the majors just on his name. ... Homer Bailey is just starting to throw on the side. He's at least two weeks away from getting back into games, and the Reds don't seem in a rush to get him innings. ... Chris Young had his Thursday side session canceled, so there's no chance he'll start on Saturday. Look for Tim Stauffer to get that start, and for a DL decision to be made by Tuesday. ... Look for Joel Zumaya to start throwing at near-game speed early next week. If that goes well, he'll soon be on a rehab assignment--a short one.

    Related Content:  The Who,  Year Of The Injury,  Quad-a

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